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SYFY WIRE obituary

Joanne Linville, Romulan Commander who romanced Spock on Star Trek, dies at 93

By Benjamin Bullard
Joanne Linville and Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek

Joanne Linville, an actor whose career included a pair of memorable appearances in early sci-fi TV classics, has passed away at the age of 93, via Deadline. In addition to playing the central character in a haunting episode of The Twilight Zone, Linville also carved out a place in Star Trek history by appearing in the original TV series’ third season as a Romulan commander who falls romantically for Spock.

Avid Trekkies remember Linville onscreen as the commander of a Romulan ship in “The Enterprise Incident,” a 1968 Star Trek episode that showed off an amorous (albeit deceptive) side for the typically stoic Spock (Leonard Nimoy). Unaware that her vessel is the target of an elaborate Federation plot to steal a Romulan cloaking device, Linville’s Romulan commander warms to Spock after taking members of the Enterprise crew aboard for violating Romulan space.

While technically a captive, Spock ends up in the commander’s quarters, where he embarks on a short romantic con with Linville’s character in order to create a distraction while her guard is down. Appearing to soften his emotionless Vulcan demeanor as the commander steers their one-on-one conversation into ever-more-personal territory, Spock lets her believe he’s romantically interested — all while waiting for the right moment to relay the cloaking device’s location aboard the Romulan ship back to the Enterprise.

Linville’s earlier role in “The Passerby,” a 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone, was even more key to the story, embodying a ghostly tale of coming to terms with the past. Linville played widowed Civil War southern belle Lavinia Godwin, who takes in a wounded Confederate soldier (James Gregory) only to discover he shares some uncanny traits with her own deceased husband. In a supernatural twist worthy of The Others, Linville’s character eventually goes on to encounter not only her husband, but even a deceased Abraham Lincoln — all to realize that she and everyone around her has already passed into the afterlife.

In addition to a supporting part in a 1958 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, much of Linville’s small-screen career involved frequent guest appearances on popular network series — including Columbo, Charlie’s Angels, Hawaii Five-O, CHiPs, Dynasty, and L.A. Law — through the early 1980s. Less frequently, she appeared in feature films throughout her career, beginning with The Goddess in 1958 and ending with James Dean in 2001.

A protégé of actor Stella Adler, Linville and fellow actor Irene Gilbert co-founded the prestigious Stella Adler Academy and Theatre in Los Angeles in 1985. A Golden State native, Linville was born Beverly Joanne Linville in Bakersfield, California in 1928.